Sorry, it has been some time since we’ve written to you all here. We finished up our time in California! It’s hard to believe that our year in mission can be over. We are truly grateful for the people we met there and the experiences we had. It is hard to believe that we were able to do something like what happened, and we have grown and changed, and discovered more about God and about ourselves.
We traveled back from Palo Alto to Ohio in December, driving mostly on I-40 some 2,600 miles! We listened to a lot of music, a couple audiobooks, and even over four hours of John Denver one day! We got to see more of Arizona and New Mexico than anyone needs
to, visit the neon-lighted U Drop Inn that was featured in the movie Cars, have cortados at Brick and Mortar Coffee in Springfield, MO, (which was a favorite), eat food from Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans again (we missed them), the Blue Whale of Catoosa, OK, and swim in a couple of our hotel pools to loosen up our muscles from the hours in the car.
We’ve moved back to Ohio for the coming months, and are in a time of transition.
Paul applied to some PhD programs, and we are living in Ohio until we hear whether any of them accept him for next fall. We hope to move to an apartment near one of the campuses sometime around getting accepted.
We have heard back a “no” from Notre Dame, which was a shock to us, as we strongly believed that the right next step for us.
So, we are reevaluating our plans and hopes, and trusting in God’s guidance for the next year. We are currently waiting to receive acceptance decisions from Indiana University and University of Illinois, and will work from there. We have also considered some other options, and are figuring out what those might look like.
Your prayers for us in this time of transition are greatly appreciated, as we are uncertain exactly what the future holds.
As many of you may know, there are several wildfires raging in Northern California. Paul and I are fine and in no danger. The fires are two hours north of us, and all we deal with here is occasional smoke drifting in. However, there are tens of thousands that have been affected by these horrible fires.
In times like this, we can often find ourselves feeling helpless, wondering how we could possibly help with something so tragic. Well, I’m here to give you a few different options if you want to help in the relief efforts.
The first and most obvious thing is to pray. We really need the wind to calm down so that the firefighters can tame the flames. Right now, the wind is happening in gusts from every direction, so there’s no way the firefighters can predict how the fires will move or where they will spread. We also need rain. We’re deep in a five-year drought. It has only rained here about two or three times since May, and only for a few minutes each time. The combo of wind and dry earth is a bad one.
Past praying, there are many different ways you can donate to the relief efforts. If you are one of our many Nazarene friends, know that we have many Nazarenes in the area who have been evacuated and who have probably lost their homes. The Church of the Nazarene has set up a donation page to go toward the general relief efforts. You can click here to give.
If you’re not Nazarene or if you’re not interested in giving through a religious entity, this news article has a list of places that are doing various forms of relief in the area that you can give to.
I know there have been a lot of natural disaster lately, and you may have already given all you can to one of those. However, if you find that you feel as though you should help out with this particular disaster, I hope that this can help direct you toward a way of doing just that.
Thanks for all your love and support! As always, we appreciate each and every one of you!
I know it’s been a while since we’ve written – sorry about that! We got caught up in the start of the semester. Oops. It’s been about three weeks since I got back from my mission project to Costa Rica. Here’s how the week went!
We arrived at SENDAS (El Seminario Nazareno de las Americas), the Nazarene seminary, on Saturday after taking a red eye flight to get there, so we took it easy the first day. On Sunday, we were blessed with the opportunity to attend church at the Los Angeles Church of the Nazarene in San Jose, Costa Rica. They are a vibrant, growing church, and it was cool to experience that with them. They’re in the process of building a bigger facility to fit their growing congregation. On Sunday, we also got to experience a bit of downtown San Jose, walking around the city and seeing what it’s like on a normal day.
Monday started our work there. We were working on the Orchid building on campus. Since leaving, the building was finished, and it will now be rented out for events. The money from this will be used to help reduce the cost of classes at the seminary for the students while still allowing for the highest quality education. Super cool!
Our team had eight people on it, and though that is a small number for a project like this, we got a ton done. We split off into small teams. Four people put tile on the walls in the bathrooms of the building, two people per bathroom. Here they are at the beginning, middle, and end of the week.
Looks great, right?
Another couple of people worked on painting the entire outside of the building (I also helped with this particular project for about half the time). Here is one wall, before and after. It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do to a place!
The last person helped to level the floor (I was also part of this for the other half of the time) and then lay tile. This person was helped by several missionaries that pitched in to help over the course of the week. I sifted dirt for about a day and a half to help make the concrete to level the floor. That might sound dull, but I didn’t mind it a bit! Here are a few pictures from that process.
On our last work day, we took the morning and went to a children’s outreach. This outreach is in a rough part of town and helps kids with homework, teaches them cultural dances and practices, feeds them, and provides a safe space to play games and do crafts. We got to help paint the main part of the outreach center. The heart that Miriam (the lady who runs the outreach) and her helpers have is absolutely amazing. They don’t have a ton themselves, but they give what they do have to help invest in the lives of these kids. It was definitely a highlight of the week there.
Backtracking a bit, Tuesday, our third day there, was Mother’s Day, which is a national holiday in Costa Rica. No one was going to be working on campus, so we got to go out and see a bit more of Costa Rica. We started the day eating breakfast up in a little family-owned restaurant in the mountains near Poas volcano. After, we zip-lined through the surrounding forests. For lunch, we ate at the cafe inside of Poas Church of the Nazarene and got to see their recently-built facility. Then we went for a hike to see a couple of waterfalls off the beaten path. This hike is something mostly only locals know about, so it was really cool to experience a piece of Costa Rica that wasn’t filled with tourists. We finished the day by having dinner at another local place. It was a crazy, exhausting, fun day, and our team bonded during that time.
Fast forwarding again, I saved my favorite part of the week for last. One evening after dinner, we got to hear the testimony of someone. He spent over an hour telling us his story, but it felt like mere minutes. To give you an idea of the story, he was involved in an incredibly violent gang in Central America. Through an amazing set of circumstances, God got a hold of his heart. The tricky part was getting out of the gang. He said there are two ways to get out of the gang: you disappear forever, or you leave in a body bag. However, God worked wonders, and he was able to tell his fellow gang members that he was leaving, and they let him walk out the door. Now he and his wife are missionaries, and their whole family is serving in Costa Rica through SENDAS. Wahoo!
I’ll close out this (kinda long) post with a few more pictures from the time there, both on and off SENDAS campus. However, before I do that, I want to leave you with a couple of takeaways I had from the trip.
First, God answers prayer. The man who gave us his testimony mentioned several times the impact that prayer had on his journey. No prayer is worthless or goes unheard. So whatever you might think about praying for, no matter how impossible it might seem, pray it, and pray it from the depths of your being.
Second, God is moving, even in the little things. God is probably moving around you right now. Take a minute to really look around and see it. Read through NCM (Nazarene Compassionate Ministries) stories. Look up exciting releases from other denominational sources (yes, that’s okay to do – it’s not blasphemy). Ask God to show you the ways in which the Spirit is moving. You might be surprised and excited about what you find!
In about 10 days, I (Elizabeth) will be traveling to Costa Rica with a team from California on a short-term missions project. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Costa Rica, it is a small but wonderful country in Central America, located between Nicaragua and Panama
We will be working at a seminary in Costa Rica, doing various construction projects around campus. We will also get to learn more about the local culture and participate in a children’s outreach. We are going to be incredibly busy during our week there, and we could really use your prayers! I would love it if you would pray for several things surrounding the trip:
-Pray for the travel there and back, that it goes smoothly and that we don’t run into any issues. Pray also that we get enough sleep on our flights there, because we will be flying overnight and hitting the ground running.
-Pray that no one gets sick or hurt. Sometimes travel can weaken immune systems, and construction projects have inherent hazards. Of course we’ll all be as careful as can be, but things happen.
-Pray for the members of the team, that God would guide the thoughts and actions of each and every one of us, and that we would be used as instruments of God’s grace and love.
-Pray for the seminary that we’ll be working at. They are doing some wonderful things, both in training pastors and in their community.
-Pray that the weather and nature would cooperate. We’ll be there during the rainy season, which can sometimes cause problems for landing in Costa Rica. There are also a couple active volcanoes around, and they can shut down airports. So pray that they behave for us on travel days.
With all of you praying for these things, I have no doubt that our time in Costa Rica will go on without a hitch. We so appreciate all of your love, prayer, and support. We couldn’t do any of this without you. You’re all wonderful!
In June, Elizabeth and I had the chance to travel to Nazarene General Assembly in Indianapolis, Indiana for a week. We had a great time reconnecting with old acquaintances, making new connections, and experiencing new things. We were there to represent Saving Acts (www.savingacts.org), the short-term media missions organization that Elizabeth is working with during our time here. Even though the days were long in the exhibit hall, we got contact information from several different people who are interested in either working with Saving Acts trips or in having a team come to a site where missions is happening in their country or location. That was really encouraging. And we got to give away 16 pounds(!) of peppermints, which were particularly popular with a few repeat visitors over the course of the week.
We got the chance to reconnect with over 130 people (yes, we kept a list) that we knew from the past through internships, family connections, past jobs, our time in Cincinnati, university connections, and Nazarene Seminary. The intersection of people from different states, and even other countries who make up different parts of our lives was fascinating.
Since Elizabeth’s family was coming to General Assembly already, and Paul’s family lives only 3.5 hours from Indianapolis, we both got to see our families, at the same time, which has been rare. It was the first time we got to see them all since last December, so it was good to catch up.
We even had the chance to make some potentially-important connections for where we think we may be heading in future.
To give some background, Paul has been exploring the potential for entering a PhD program in the fall of 2018. He’s interested particularly in studying multilingualism, endangered languages, language identity and history, influence of language on children, and other things. He’s particularly interested in studying the culture of language of Ireland, which is a place both he and Elizabeth have been interested in for some time. Some possibilities for options have come up recently, but nothing has felt exactly right. He’s been looking into Linguistic Anthropology, a subfield in Anthropology that studies language and culture and how they interact. It offers a great potential fit for combining his interests in language and cultures.
In the week before leaving to go to Indianapolis, Paul was at work at the bookstore when a customer came in wearing a shirt from the University of Notre Dame. For whatever reason, Paul decided to research Notre Dame to see if it had a program that might be a good fit for him. During his next break, he looked up the university’s website.
On the website, he found that Notre Dame has an anthropology department that offers a PhD track. Check one.
Then, he discovered that the anthropology department has four subfield specializations, one of which is Linguistic anthropology. Check two.
Reading on the website further, he discovered that Notre Dame (home of the Fighting Irish) actually has a interdisciplinary partnership between the anthropology department and another department on campus, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, with over ten faculty from Ireland and courses in Irish, along with a building the department owns in Ireland. Check three!
Within those two departments, there is a professor who works in both(!) specializing in Ireland’s folklore and history through its language and other aspects, a professor who works with linguistic anthropology and identity, and multilingualism, and a third who studies indigeneity and exchange of language and cultural and political symbolism in language. Check four!
Each of these offer fascinating potential, but the opportunity to work with one or more of these professors who mesh well with Paul’s research interests is a piece that was missing from many of the schools on the previous short list. We are excited about the potential offered in the department there as well, which funds students for five years and offers funding for summer language study as well.
The school is in Indiana, in the Midwest where we both have been feeling called to return. It offers a great balance of city life and more rural opportunity, a nice balance of our desired living situation. It offers a great deal of intriguing potential. Now to get accepted, if this is the path we are to pursue.
Paul would pursue entrance into Notre Dame for Fall 2018, and we would hope to move to the area around February or March.
Also, while at General Assembly, we had the opportunity to connect with some potentially helpful people for this potential path in life. We met the District Superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene district in the Notre Dame area. We also met the pastor of a Nazarene congregation located only a couple of miles from Notre Dame’s campus. Both were highly recommended to us as great people to work with, and have ties to either people we know, to MVNU, or both. Elizabeth would have great potential to work directly or indirectly with the local church and perhaps the district, pursuing her passion for short-term missions while Paul is in school.
Needless to say, all of these pieces of information which have only recently come to light have us excited about possibilities for the future. If you are looking for a way to walk with us through this time, prayers for the process, and figuring out what the coming months and/or years mean for us would be much appreciated.
The 365m process has been instrumental in helping us to discover this path that we think we are supposed to walk after our year in mission, and it is because of the support of friends and family that we have been able to come here and learn these things, so thank you to everyone who supports us through prayer or in other ways. We appreciate you, and would love to hear back from any readers!
My favorite story summing up our time in Palo Alto so far:
Father pushing a child in a stroller: his favorite new word is “auto”
Second Man: (to first’s child in stroller) “Jasper, what sound does an auto make?”
****The child says nothing.
****Electric car whirs past quietly.
Father: “Oh Bruce, this is Menlo Park, cars don’t make sounds.”
Hi! It’s Paul again. I wanted to share about something cool that happened last week. I attend a weekly running group at a running store in the next town over (Menlo Park). It’s really great, with about 10-20 people gathering on Thursday nights to run a different route each week, anywhere from 3-6 miles. On the last one of each month, and on other occasional days as well, the owners line up a shoe company representative to come and wear-test shoes from a brand like New Balance, Asics, Brooks, Altra, etc. On these run days, affectionately known as “pub runs”, the group shares snacks, popcorn, drinks, etc. inside the store after the run. It’s a time for conversation, fellowship, getting to know other runners, talking about the places to run in California, and other things. It seems like every person is from a different place, so that offers something to start a great conversation. I’ve met a woman who used to live near the neighborhood of Cincinnati that we lived in, a couple from Columbus, Ohio, a man from India, a couple from New Zealand, and several others. One week I had a fascinating discussion with a man who was raised Jewish but no longer considers himself to be religious. He still observes all of the traditional holidays, and was open in sharing his reasons with me. In turn, he asked me to open up about my own faith, and why I’ve chosen to be Protestant and to work so much with the Church of the Nazarene. It was incredible, and completely spontaneous.
I’ve found that if I open up (appropriately without forcing it) first, I have a lot of people willing to open up back. This has meant a few good conversations with people at running group about what I do, but also even during time in the bookstore at work and in other places.
Most recently, I did this type of thing with one of the shoe representatives who visited on a pub run day. The manager introduced him as Zach Bitter, the American record holder for running 100 miles. Yes, I said miles, not meters. This is him:
He was totally cool with me talking to him after our run was over, when most of the other people were inside the store. I started the conversation off by mentioning I had a friend who was into Ultrarunning (doing more-than-a-marathon-distance races) and asked if he’d be willing to give me a firsthand account of it. I asked about fueling, and he opened up about the intricacies of what to eat and drink on an 11 hour run. Then I mentioned a couple of the public names of ultrarunning (Dean Karnazes and Scott Jurek), and asked what he thought of them being the public face of the sport.
From there, we both were able to open up; him about his running days a bit and myself about what brought me here and the program we’re in through 365m. I said I’m from Ohio, he said he’s also from the Midwest, so we connected over that. It was incredible. All while I helped him take down his merchandise tent and such.
He was really down to earth and humble, not mentioning being popular or anything at all. I respected that. Plus, I nearly pegged his accent, which is sort of becoming a fun hobby of mine (he’s from Wisconsin and I was guessing Canada; close, but not quite).
Here’s an article about him if you’d like to read more.
Today I’m going to write about our studies in 365m.
What is intercultural studies? We’re here in Palo Alto studying through the 365m program at Nazarene Theological Seminary, taking courses in intercultural studies (ICS for short). It’s an interesting field. We each majored in it at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, with our favorite professor teaching many of the courses. We took classes like Gospel and Culture, Foundations of Missions, Cultural Anthropology, Intercultural Communication, and Intercultural Practicum. Students are required to study abroad as part of the curriculum, and we both studied in Costa Rica, taking courses in ICS.
Overall, ICS is pretty tricky to define.
The short answer in the context in which we studied it is that it’s a degree in missions. Many people use it to become missionaries. Indeed, a number of the people we know who studied it use it for just that.
During college, I sometimes heard it depicted as “applied anthropology”, using the study of people to communicate a message to another person of another culture.
I‘ve heard studying it described as “having a degree in people”.
I know people who studied it at the Master’s Degree level who use it in working with churches as pastors or leaders.
I know people who use it in their professions as educators, teaching cultural communication and tolerance, as well as contextualization, to students who plan to go into cross-cultural situations.
In job interviews, I’ve argued that it can help me in customer service or in sales, helping adapt to the customer’s needs/wants and contextualize the message to the customer.
I’ve used it in lots of church situations, working with both Spanish/English churches and their leaders. Combined with studying another language, the field’s insights help in effective communication.
I even used it during my time working as an interpreter, working to negotiate the cultural and language differences between people on both sides of the language gap in situations at hospitals, dentist offices, etc. Sarah Lanier’s book, “Foreign to Familiar” outlines a simplified dichotomy of “hot cultures” and “cold cultures”. These distinctions, which I won’t get into in detail her, describe the difference between people oriented, friendly, open cultures and more reserved, private, information oriented cultures. Distinctions like this are the realm of ICS.
One of the most memorable definitions for it came from a professor of ours in undergrad. That professor has a Master’s in ICS, and teaches nearly all of the courses in that field at our school. I asked one day how he dealt with not having a quantifiable “field”, like so many others in nursing, mathematics, physics, etc. since ICS is much more nebulous. His answer has stuck with me:
“In ICS, our field is being able to engage other people in their fields”
is what he told me that day. After taking some time to ponder this, I realized that it was a great definition of ICS. We try not only to communicate across cultures and relate to people in order to communicate better to them, we also often try to understand the frame of reference from which another (the anthropological Other) is operating. We try to have a general knowledge of lots of things that other people find meaningful so we can try to craft and contextualize a message in ways that person can better understand.
In college, I think I often unconsciously found myself doing this. I loved discussing coffee with some friends who were passionate about coffee. I loved watching apartment mates playing video games and memorizing some details of the games to be able to converse with them about said game. I’d sit with them while they played and read or talk, taking in details about the game and its world. I loved engaging my roommate in discussions about movie and media, since those were some of his passions.
Much of my senior year of college was all about being conversant in a number of classes that were tangentially related to my “field”: I took a Speech Pathology course (with only majors in that field in it besides me) and related to them in their terms and still engaged the material from my passion for languages. I took Biblical Greek for 2 semesters, not for preaching from like the others in the class, but for the linguistic and cultural elements I could take away from it, which meant that I had to learn to function in the context of all those ministry majors. I spent many hours crafting my honors thesis (designing a major in linguistics) and crafting it into a presentable form to convey my creation to the university.
This engaging others on their terms is even one of the things that I love about the Church of the Nazarene. I didn’t grow up Nazarene, but have become immersed in it and learned about it experientially. If I know that someone is a part of it, I can converse with them about some of the common terms and figures within the church (especially all those acronyms I had to start understanding in college like NMI, NYI, NYC, PLNU, GMC, NTS, BGS, DAB, etc.)
During our time here in Palo Alto, this process of “engaging others in their fields” has continued. A coworker is from a different country, so I engage them with a general knowledge of that reality’s effect in mind. I speak with church people and adapt the language I can use, throwing in terms that I cannot use in general conversation outside the church. A friend in our context is an athletic trainer, so I asked her about an old Achilles injury I had and kinesiotape and its uses in training.
Another friend is passionate about business, so when I relate to him I consider the ways that business shapes his outlook and actions.
Going forward, having this type of mindfulness is helpful in all aspects of interpersonal relationships, and it will be invaluable to us wherever we go from here.
If I end up pursuing the field of linguistic anthropology as I hope, the anthropological elements found in ICS will give me a better base for pursuing my goals. In the distant future, if I enter into a professorship role as I hope, then engaging students in the fields that they have chosen will be an invaluable skill to add more meaning to our interactions.
Thanks for your continued support of us during this year in intercultural studies and mission.
I’ve been reflecting lately on all the times that the church of the Nazarene never ceases to shock me on how connected it is.
I didn’t grow up in the Nazarene world, but have gotten increasingly connected lately since going to college. Going to school, events, and trainings coupled with two internships and now a Seminary program have begun to build our network. Elizabeth and I are starting to get to the point of knowing Nazarenes in lots of places, or meeting people for the first time who already know someone we know. So, I decided to make a list of my most surprising incidents of connection. There are more than I realized.
1. Meeting a friend of a seminary administrator who was the star of an anecdote shared back in January
While we were in Kansas City, one of our program administrators told a story about a friend of his who hates sour cream and how he sent that friend a video of his kid eating sour cream to gross him out. On site here, I worked with the district at a district committee event, and happened to meet the friend who starred in the story. He’s a pastor out here.
2. Meeting Steve again at a Nazarene convention
In 2014 I worked in Philadelphia for a summer with a missionary family. The church hosted some weeks of Work and Witness teams, who coincidentally all came from parts of Ohio. I made a few relationships with members of those teams, but never really expected to see them again. A year later, Elizabeth and I got sent by a professor of ours to a Work and Witness convention, in South Central Ohio. We found out we were going right before the event happened, and arrived somewhat late. When we walked in the door, a man was doing registration at a table down a long hallway. In disbelief, I found myself saying “Steve?!” And heard my name back in equally surprised terms. Elizabeth thought that I had called ahead or knew who to expect. I had not and did not. There was Steve, an electrician who was on one of the Work and Witness teams in Philly the year before. We had done some work together and had some conversations. I was blown away to see him again. There were also a few others from those teams that came to that convention. Nazarenes…
3. Knowing the district in Missouri where a church leader Elizabeth’s dad mentioned serves as District superintendent.
On a visit to Elizabeth’s parents’ house, we were eating breakfast in their dining room one morning. Elizabeth’s dad was talking about Nazarene political activity, and mentioned another Nazarene, an out of state District leader. When he did so, I happened to be walking into the kitchen from the dining room. On my way out, I heard him say something along the lines of “Yeah, he’s working out there on the, uh, which district is that…?” Before I knew it, I found myself yelling “Joplin!” from the kitchen. I then said something about how I was becoming a Nazarene even unwillingly…
I had attended a training the summer before, and that very district leader was a teacher in a couple of the training sessions.
4. Traveling to a small country church and having a woman recognize Elizabeth (by sight only even!) as her mother’s daughter.
Last fall, we traveled extensively in Ohio to fundraise and gain partners. We went to a small church for a missions service and dinner, and a woman from the church eating at the church dinner with us said “You’re Miriam’s daughter, aren’t you?” to Elizabeth. She recognized her as looking enough like her mom to place her as related. We hadn’t even given our last names, and Elizabeth was a Harding then. Again, I was surprised, but not overly surprised because…Nazarenes.
5. Being in that same small country church’s missions service and hearing them pray for an African missionary who we had just met and traveled with a few months before.
In July, we had traveled to Philadelphia to do a deputation service with a professor of ours. He was traveling with a missionary friend of his, who lives and works in West Africa. We had a great trip.
In that small church’s missions service, the church had a portion of the service dedicated to prayers for missions. One of the written prayer requests was “We pray for ______ _____ (first and last name!) and the work in ________ (his country!). We knew that beyond a faraway missionary that was important to pray for, the name meant nothing in-depth to the other attendees. But we were blown away that they were praying for a missionary we just happened to have met and traveled with a few months before!
These five incidents are only the most compelling of the coincidences, reconnections, and surprising lines of contact that have happened to us in the past two years or so.
This is one of the things that I love about the Church of the Nazarene. There is always a connection in every place you go. You can go into nearly any city where a Nazarene Church is, and find someone you know by some sort of distant connection. It truly is a global church.